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The Dark Eloquence of Shadrix Silverquill

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The college of my namesake welcomes you, dear student. Though countless challenges lie ahead, take comfort in the knowledge you've already passed the first test. You have chosen us. This alone puts you leagues ahead of your classmates. No doubt, you've observed a motley assortment of students skittering about the courtyard. Always be mindful to coexist, respect them, but never fail to recognize your elevated rank in the hierarchy. Silverquill is the prestige that elevates Strixhaven past the dusty bookshelves and chalk-stained halls of lesser institutions. You now carry the burden of maintaining that standard. A daunting task. One many a young warlock falls woefully short of. Our illustrious college will ask the utmost. The rewards can be great, but the journey long. An expert staff will dispense all the tools and experience of our proud history, though the ultimate consequence will be your responsibility, alone.

You'll make us proud, I trust. Or at the very least, hope. Unlike some of our more mathematically-inclined colleagues, I quite enjoy being proven wrong. It's a novelty I seldom get the opportunity to experience.

Signed,

Shadrix Silverquill

Founder of House Silverquill

Shadrix Silverquill by Kekai Kotaki

Greetings, fellow cardboard warriors! With the release of Strixhaven, a new set of deck-building possibilities lie before us. Among these, our esteemed Shadrix Silverquill lends his eloquence to one of my favorite Commander archetypes: Dark Politics.

One part Pillow-Fort, one part-Rattlesnake, this archetype sees you take on the role of Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) from "Game of Thrones". Rather than get your own hands dirty, you'll happily recline behind the scenes, drink in hand, and manipulate everyone into taking each other out. Once the dust settles, the power is yours to leisurely claim without further headache. War can be a bloody business, so it's best to conduct said business remotely.

Bloodthirsty Blade
Cunning Rhetoric
Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker
Care to send those attackers elsewhere, good sir?

Shadrix Silverquill is all too happy to oblige, providing your opponents the means to kill each other while gifting you the tools to stay alive. And with the flexibility of matching the effects to best fit the context of the turn. Many a first impression of Shadrix Silverquill lamented assisting your opponent, but within the context of Commander, this brings valuable political sway to the game. Our gothic dragon will always give you the best option for a given situation. Your opponent will either receive the worst option ("Go ahead, Spellslinger Deck, put a +1/+1 counter on all your non-existent creatures.") or one that gives you bargaining power down the road.

Near-Death Experience

It'd be a shame if something were to happen to that 1 life of yours.

Join me on this exploration of manipulation as we craft with Shadrix Silverquill at the helm. We'll discuss the various applications of our general, overall theme and strategies, specific tools to execute those strategies, and some budget options to substitute out pricier elements of the deck. Our opponents truly won't know what hit em'.

Oh wait, yes they will: Each other!

Feast of Succession by Seb McKinnon

Revisions are a writer's best friend: While preview season was afoot, Silverquill appeared to be the most Aggro-centric of Strixhaven's colleges. Smaller creature stats and a copious arsenal of combat tricks led me to believe the school of Shadrix Silverquill would be more inclined to attack than pull puppet strings. As such, I thought my political build would be a novel one.

Silverquill Apprentice
Beaming Defiance
Arrogant Poet
Did the Boros Legion write their text books?

And then the preconstructed deck, "Silverquill Statement", got spoiled. Oops.

Thusly, a few revisions were made to make today's deck distinct. There's nothing wrong with precon-upgrades, but I wanted our take on the Silverquill College to stand apart. As such, initial inclusions like Orzhov Advokist, Magister of Worth, and Infernal Offering were left on the cutting room floor in favor of more novel options.

Orzhov Advokist
Magister of Worth
Infernal Offering

That said, cards like Cunning Rhetoric and Promise of Loyalty fit the theme so well, I made an exception or two. I also leaned heavily into the "You really, really don't want to attack me" vibe, which opened the door to a seemingly-contradictory mechanic: The Monarch. While the battle for the crown encourages attacking us, our deck is designed to make the proposition either impossible or not worth the effort. The added card draw only fuels this fire as time goes on. Functionally (and flavorfully, considering the superiority complex), Shadrix Silverquill synergizes very well with the Monarch.

Shadrix Silverquill

Shadrix Silverquill | Commander | Matthew Lotti


The Edgar Allan Poe of the Dragon World: Our general's strongest attribute is his flexibility, a virtue that makes cards like Austere Command and Boros Charm so highly praised. Coming to the party with baked-in evasion, Shadrix Silverquill will often 'activate' each turn without issue. His abilities may individually not appear mind-blowing, but the option to pick the most timely one makes all the difference. It helps ensure that whatever we choose, it'll be the optimal move. The choice with the most impact on the game.

Cryptic Command
Kolaghan's Command
Azorius Charm
Flexibility: The Invisible Mechanic

On the other side of the coin, it also lets us pick the weakest or least applicable option for our opponent. There's a reason why 'punisher' cards like (Ex. Molten Influence) don't see a ton of play: Your opponent will always pick the option that's worse for you. It's the reason punisher cards need to be really pushed and/or repeatable (Torment of Hailfire) to get around that massive drawback. It works in a similar way with Shadrix, just in the opposite direction.

Molten Influence
Torment of Hailfire
One-shot vs. multi-shot

While starting stats are nothing to scream about, the combo of evasion and double strike also make Shadrix Silverquill a potentially scary combatant. Our deck isn't specifically trying to win via Commander damage, but the fact that Shadrix can add counters to himself (and everyone else) is not to be overlooked. If ever we wanted to go in the other direction, from "go-tall" to "go-wide", Shadrix can begin making 2-power evasive tokens for us each turn, then start pumping the entire team once a large enough army is assembled.

Inkling
Inkling
Inkling
Someone tell Venom he's a father. Again.

While neither strategy is we're aiming for, the fact that we can pivot our play-style and craft a win-con out of Shadrix Silverquill alone is very powerful.

Court of Ambition
Palace Jailer
Feast of Succession
Sometimes it's not so good to be the king, I guess

Shadrix's evasion, coupled with that of Inklings, also mean that if we lose the Monarch, we have a decent shot at getting it back. That's not something a lot of political-style decks can readily do. At the end of the day, our modus operandi is to coerce opponents to kill each other. That said, those extra bites of damage certainly add up and can help deliver the final blow.

High Priest of Penance
Windborn Muse
Spurnmage Advocate

Rattlesnakes at the Castle Gates: Our creature base is equals part protective stalwart, threatening blocker, and card advantage machine. Initially, we're all about raising the shields, so troops like Archon of Absolution, Baird, Steward of Argive, and Windborn Muse incur a tax upon anyone looking to draw blood. Most folks won't sacrifice developing their board to get a hit in. We also deploy rattlesnakes that discourage attacking under threat of retribution. Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, High Priest of Penance, and the innocuous Spurnmage Advocate stand ready to further punish aggressive players. Yes, the activation-cost of Spurnmage Advocate is high, but remember: it can target any attacking creature, be it sent your way or at someone else, and that the cards returned can be to any opponent, not just the one attacking you. This offers a lot bargaining power for a simple little 1-drop. "Attack me and I'll give Player B back their board-wipe".

Archon of Coronation
Custodi Lich
Palace Jailer

For card advantage, we look to the creatures bearing the Monarch ability, many of which are also designed to help us keep it. Thorn of the Black Rose, Archon of Coronation, Protector of the Crown, Custodi Lich, and Palace Jailer all work to protect us from attackers, either in defensive fashion or via removing threats. Mangara the Diplomat is also included to generate even more card advantage as the game presses on.

Parasitic Impetus
Aurification
No Mercy

Cutting Language: Our toolbox of spells follows suite, with an array of weapons designed to point threats away from us and at other opponents. Bloodthirsty Blade, Vow of Malice, Vow of Torment, Martial Impetus, and Parasitic Impetus shut off the threats to us while simultaneously making them more dangerous to the rest of the table. We further reward opponents for attacking each other via Crown of Doom and Curse of Disturbance.

Cunning Rhetoric
Righteous Aura
Martyr's Bond

Beside directly steering enemy creatures elsewhere, we make the prospect of attacking us more difficult in-general via Ensaring Bridge, Crawlspace, Ghostly Prison, Cunning Rhetoric, and Mystic Barrier. If our opponents do find a way around these obstacles, additional rattlesnakes like No Mercy, Aurification, Martyr's Bond, Soul Snare, and Pariah are on standby to make them pay the price for their transgression. If attackers do manage to bust through, the protective forces of Story Circle, Righteous Aura, Teferi's Protection and Batwing Brume ensure we'll incur no blood loss, thus keeping our crown.

Batwing Brume

For those pesky token swarms

Once we're sufficiently protected and drawing a steady stream of cards, it's time to find a win condition. With all our security systems, turning-on Luminarch Ascension and an optimal Court of Grace should not be difficult. Twin tutors Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor happily fetch us either. Survive long enough, and our mana base likely allows for a gigantic Rise of the Dark Realms or Agadeem's Awakening.

Darksteel Mutation
Merciless Eviction
Promise of Loyalty

Supporting Arguments: Backing up our deck's central theme is an array of support spells, meant to answer threats directly. Anguished Unmaking, Despark, Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, and Darksteel Mutation provide spot removal. Darksteel Mutation pairs quite nicely with the aforementioned Pariah, shielding us from damage so long as the enchanted creature sticks around, which Indestructible supports. On the other side of the removal coin, sweepers like Merciless Eviction, Feast of Succession, Ondu Inversion, and Promise of Loyalty provide valuable reset buttons if the board gets too difficult for our defenses to handle.

Outside of removal, we suit up with value-town staples. Skullclamp can provide steady card draw off of Inkling tokens. Smothering Tithe is simply too silly-strong to not include, generating huge bursts of mana over a few short turns. I'm also a huge fan of Treasure Map, a tasty combo platter of scry, card draw, and ramp. You'll find Treasure Map in a lot of my personal Commander decks.

Talisman of Hierarchy
Kor Haven
Spawning Pool

Mana Base: Our mana rocks are made up of the classic workhorses: Arcane Signet, Orzhov Signet, Talisman of Hierarchy, etc. Nothing too exciting, but they get the job done. The land base, however, does feature a few noteworthy tools. Kor Haven, Castle Ardenvale, and Spawning Pool all provide extra protection. The flexibility of dual-faced cards Emeria's Call, Ondu Inversion, and Agadeem's Awakening mean that, while we're most likely to play these as lands, they can become powerful plays in the late game for a very low opportunity cost.

Righteous Aura by Jeff Miracola

Home Security on a Budget: It doesn't elude me that many of the elements making our deck tick are pretty damn pricy. As such, let's cover some less expensive substitutions for more discerning wallets.

No Mercy
Enlightened Tutor
Smothering Tithe

Creatures: Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker (Currently $35) and Recruiter of the Guard ($30)

The hefty price tag on Recruiter of the Guard doesn't shock me, as it's a tutor with only one printing (Mystery Boosters don't count). I am surprised at the cost Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker. I'm thinking this due to low supply from an older set. Lovely lady could use a reprint, Wizards!

Knights of the Black Rose
Archon of Justice
Avenger en-Dal

For replacements, we'll look to both additional Monarch enablers (Knights of the Black Rose, Palace Sentinels) and rattlesnakes (Avenger en-Dal, Archon of Justice). The latter are classic examples of what make rattlesnake-cards so effective, as they'll often impact combat without ever having to utilize their ability. Folks aren't likely to send attackers unless they've some additional way to get around these two.

Non-Creature Spells: No Mercy ($64), Enlightened Tutor ($62), Smothering Tithe ($45), and Teferi's Protection ($35)

To further discourage attacking us, No Mercy and Teferi's Protection can be swapped out for the likes of Mandate of Peace, Inkshield, or Profane Procession. Reinforcements is a little-know card that can help recover from board wraths. Karmic Justice is another option, as while it doesn't stop attackers, it'll certainly punish folks for blowing up your enchantments and whatnot. Speaking of which...

Enlightened Tutor is an important, as enchantments make up nearly 20% of our deck. But if we can't afford efficiency, then we'll compensate with sheer volume. Plea for Guidance and Three Dreams are slower, but fetch multiple cards at a time.

Finally, Strixhaven does offer a Smothering Tithe substitute in Monologue Tax. It may not generate anywhere near the volume of treasure its pricier cousin does, but I imagine it's better than it looks.

Lands: Marsh Flats ($50), Prismatic Vista ($35)

Volumes have been written about how much the fetch lands, especially the enemy ones, need a reprint. There's nothing I can say hasn't already been said a hundred times. But I can add my voice to that petition.

Though not a traditional fetch, Prismatic Vista continues to climb in price and could use a reprint as well. Fortunately for us, Fabled Passage has been reprinted recently and provides an excellent substitution. Other Orzhov-aligned choices include Concealed Courtyard, Orzhov Basilica, or even the new Silverquill Campus. You could also consider additional defensive options in man-lands Shambling Vent and Forbidding Watchtower to go along with our Spawning Pool.

Court of Ambition by Jenn Ravenna

Wrapping things up, remember: Commander is a format that's all about creativity. At the end of the day, finding the balance between the effective and the entertaining is what makes Commander so endearing. In your brewing conquests, I encourage you to explore the deepest archives of the Magic library. Who knows, you may a hidden piece of tech that's been lost to time.

Huh, I'm starting to sound like I'm in the Lorehold, now.

Shadrix Silverquill would certainly not approve.

Thanks for reading!

-Matt Lotti-

@Intrepid_Tautog

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